Stoke’s Barcelona bond to pay dividends again this summer

Barcelona and Stoke couldn’t be more different in the style of football they play, but the Britannia Stadium is becoming an increasingly more used escape route for the Spanish giants’ fringe players.

Bojan Krkic and Marc Muniesa have both swapped the steep stands of the Nou Camp for the swirling winds of the Potteries in the past few seasons and it looks as though a third Barcelona disciple could be joining them this summer.

Stoke are rumoured to be interested in taking 29-year-old Dutch winger Ibrahim Afellay on a free transfer during the off season, once his contract with the Blaugrana expires.

Afellay joined Barcelona as an emerging talent in European football in 2010, having made 159 league appearances in his homeland for PSV prior to the switch.

However, the Utrecht native has struggled to impose himself on the La Liga champions’ star-studded squad and has played in just 21 games in the competition, needing loan moves to Schalke and Olympiacos during his time in Spain just to get time on the pitch.

With his deal at the Nou Camp a certainty not to be renewed, Mark Hughes may look to use the two former Barca stars as bait to lure the 49-cap international to Stoke.

Bojan was an instant hit with the Britannia Stadium side after joining the club last summer, scoring five times in 18 all-competition appearances before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Muniesa, on the other hand, has developed more gradually under Hughes’ tutelage since switching to these shores for the start of the 2013/14 campaign.

The performances of the pair should be a major encouragement to Afellay, who will no doubt seek to get his career back on track after a stuttering three-season stint in Spain.

Barcelona bid to add the Champions League trophy to a double-winning haul this season after claiming victory in both La Liga and the Copa Del Rey. They are 8/13 favourites with Ladbrokes to beat Juventus in Berlin.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.